Alex Philippidis Senior News Editor Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

Biotech’s most enterprising people are often above average in founding new companies.

The average number of businesses launched by serial entrepreneurs has most often been quoted at 2.3, the figure furnished by the Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship in “The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur,” a 2009 study of 549 founders in industries that included biotechnology. A 2010 study cited a higher average, finding that serial entrepreneurs on average had built five different businesses and sold two of them. (1)

Yet judging from this year’s updated GEN List of serial entrepreneurs, and the original List published in 2012, biotech entrepreneurs are among the most enterprising entrepreneurs. Their lists of companies launched often exceed a handful, with some serial bioentrepreneurs starting up a dozen or more companies. Below is a list of 17 of serial entrepreneurs with lists of the biotech businesses they have started up as founders or Co-Founders. 

Michael R. Bristow, M.D., Ph.D

  • ARCA biopharma—Co-Founder; Chairman and CEO, 2004-2006; Chief Science and Medical Officer, 2006-2009; President and CEO, 2009-present. Launched 2002. Completed reverse merger with Nuvelo 2009.
  • miRagen Therapeutics—Co-Founder; Member, Scientific Advisory Board. Launched 2007.
  • Myogen—Principal Founder; Chief Science and Medical Officer, October 1996-February 2006; Scientific Advisor, February 2006-November 2006. Launched 1996. Acquired 2006 by Gilead Sciences.
  • At present: Professor of Medicine in Cardiology and Co-Director of the University of Colorado Cardiovascular Institute at UC Denver School of Medicine
  • Degrees: University of Illinois, Urbana, B.S. in Veterinary Science, 1966; University of Illinois, Chicago, College of Medicine, M.D., 1970; University of Illinois, Chicago, Graduate College, M.D.-Ph.D. program, Department of Pharmacology, 1971.

Dennis M. Brown, Ph.D.

  • DelMar Pharmaceuticals—Co-Founder and CSO. Launched 2010.
  • Valent Technologies—Co-Founder and President. Launched 2009.
  • ChemGenex Therapeutics—Scientific Founder, President, and CEO. Launched 1999. Merged 2004 with AGT Biosciences to become ChemGenex Pharmaceuticals, of which he served until 2009 as President and Director.
  • MountainView Pharmaceuticals—Co-Founder; Chairman since 2000. Launched 1995.
  • Matrix Pharmaceutical—Co-Founder; VP of discovery research, 1995-1999; VP of scientific affairs, 1985-1995. Launched 1985. Acquired 2002 by Chiron, in turn acquired 2006 by Novartis.
  • Degrees: New York University, B.A. in Biology and Chemistry, 1971; M.S. in Cell Biology, 1975; Ph.D. in Radiation and Cancer Biology, 1979.

Marvin H. Caruthers, Ph.D.

  • miRagen Therapeutics—Co-Founder and Director. Launched 2007.
  • Array BioPharma—Co-Founder; Director, 1998-2011. Founded 1998.
  • Dharmacon—Founding Investor. Launched 1995 as Dharmacon Research to commercialize research from Dr. Carruthers’ lab. Acquired 2004 by Fisher Scientific International. GE Healthcare acquired Dharmacon earlier this year from Thermo Fisher Scientific.
  • Applied Biosystems—Co-Founder with Leroy Hood, M.D., Ph.D. (See below). Launched 1981. Now part of Thermo Fisher Scientific.
  • Amgen—Co-Founder; Scientific Consultant and former Member of Scientific Advisory Board. Launched 1980.
  • At present: Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Colorado
  • Degrees: Iowa State University, B.S. in Chemistry, 1962; Northwestern University, Ph.D. in Biochemistry, 1968.

John F. Crowley, J.D.

  • Orexigen Therapeutics—Founder; President and CEO, 2003-2005. Launched 2002.
  • Novazyme Pharmaceuticals—Founding President and CEO, 2000-2001. Launched 2000. Acquired 2001 by Genzyme, which in turn was acquired in 2011 by Sanofi.
  • At present: Amicus Therapeutics—Co-Founder; Chairman and CEO, 2010-April 2011, August 2011-present; President and CEO, 2005-2010. Commissioned Officer, U.S. Navy Reserve (completed active duty 2011; assignments included the U.S. Special Operations Command).
  • Degrees: Georgetown University, B.S. in foreign service; University of Notre Dame Law School, J.D.; Harvard Business School, M.B.A. Years unavailable.

David R. Elmaleh, Ph.D.

  • ATP Therapeutics—Co-Founder. Founded 1999. Dissolved 2005 following acquisition by Molecular Insight Pharmaceuticals, which initially continued to operate the company as a wholly owned subsidiary.
  • AZTherapies—Scientific Founder and Chairman. Founded 2011.
  • FluoroPharma Medical—Scientific Founder; Chairman, Director, and Chief Scientific Advisor until 2012. Founded 2003.
  • Molecular Insight Pharmaceuticals—Scientific Founder. Founded 1997 as Imaging Biopharmaceuticals. Changed its name to Biostream in 1998 and to Molecular Insight Pharmaceuticals in 2003. Acquired 2013 by Progenics Pharmaceuticals.
  • Mersana Therapeutics—Scientific Founder. Company founded 2001 as NanoPharma.
  • OncoLogic Biopharmaceuticals—Co-Founder. Acquired by Procyon BioPharma, 1998.
  • PureTech—Co-Founder and Senior Advisor. Science and technology development and commercialization company founded 2001 as PureTech Ventures.
  • US BioSystems—Co-Founder. Incorporated 2001
  • At present: Director of Contrast Media Chemistry, Massachusetts General Hospital; Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School.
  • Degrees: Hebrew University of Jerusalem, BSc in Physics and Chemistry; M.S. and Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry. Years unavailable.

Phillip Frost, M.D.

  • OPKO Health—Chairman and CEO, 2007-present. Launched 2007 through merger of his shell company eXegenics with Acuity Pharmaceuticals and Froptix.
  • Protalix BioTherapeutics—Among the first investors; Director, 2006-2007. Launched 2006.
  • ChromaDex—Founder and largest shareholder. Launched 1999.
  • North American Vaccine—Founder. Launched 1990 through combination of American Vaccine Corp. and assets of Bio Chem Pharma. Acquired by Baxter International, 2000.
  • Ivax—Launched with two partners in 1987; Chairman and CEO, 1987-2006; President, 1991-1995. Acquired by Teva, 2006.
  • Key Pharmaceuticals—Launched with co-investors, 1972. Acquired by Schering-Plough, 1986. Schering-Plough acquired by Merck & Co., 2009.
  • At present: Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Chairman, 2010-present; Vice Chair, 2006-2010.
  • Degrees: University of Paris, attended 1955-1956; University of Pennsylvania, B.A. in French Literature, 1957; Albert Einstein College of Medicine, M.D., 1961

Leroy (Lee) Hood, M.D., Ph.D.

  • Integrated Diagnostics (Indi)—Co-Founder and Director. Launched 2009.
  • Accelerator Corp.—Co-Founder and Director. Founded 2003 with focus on investment and management in startup biotechnology companies.
  • Institute for Systems Biology—President, Co-Founder, and Director. Research institute founded 2000.
  • MacroGenics—One of four scientific founders. Launched 2000.
  • Phenogenomics—Co-Founder. Launched 2000. Company ceased operations; date not available.
  • Agilent Technologies—Co-Founder. Spun out from Hewlett-Packard 1999. Electronic measurement subsidiary spun out into Keysight Technologies, 2013, as company refocused operations on the life sciences, diagnostics, and applied chemical markets.
  • Rosetta Inpharmatics—Co-Founder. Launched 1996. Acquired 2001 for $620 million by Merck & Co., which operates the company as a wholly owned subsidiary before shutting down operations in 2008.
  • Prolinx—Co-Founder. Launched 1995. Ceased operations 2003.
  • Cell Tech (formerly Darwin Molecular)—Co-Founder. Launched 1992. Draws Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen as key investors in 1994. Acquired 1996 by Chiroscience, which is acquired three years later by Celltech Group. Ceased operations in 2003.
  • Paracel—Co-Founder. Launched 1992. Acquired by Celera Genomics, 2000. Celera acquired by Quest Diagnostics, 2011.
  • Systemix—Co-Founder. Launched 1987. Sold 60% of shares in 1991 for $391.8 million to Sandoz, now Novartis, which acquired the rest of the company in 1996.
  • T Cell Sciences—Co-Founder. Launched 1983. Acquired Virus Research Institute in 1998 for $70 million; combined company changed name to Avant Immunotherapeutics, which in 2008 merged with Celldex Therapeutics.
  • Applied Biosystems—Founder. Launched 1981 to commercialize DNA sequencer, DNA synthesizer, protein sequencer, and peptide synthesizer, all developed by Dr. Hood. A predecessor company of Thermo Fisher Scientific.
  • Amgen—Co-Founder. Launched 1980.
  • Degrees: California Institute of Technology, B.S. in Biology, 1960; Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, M.D., 1964; California Institute of Technology, Ph.D. in biochemistry, 1968

Robert S. Langer, Sc.D.

  • Gecko Biomedical—Co-Founder and Member, Scientific Advisory Board. Launched 2013.
  • PixarBio—Co-Founder. Launched 2013.
  • SQZ Biotech—Co-Founder and Director. Launched 2013.
  • Blend Therapeutics—Co-Founder, Director, and Member of Scientific Advisory Board. Launched 2012.
  • Moderna Therapeutics—Academic Co-Founder, and Member of Scientific Advisory Board. Launched 2010.
  • Kala Pharmaceuticals—Co-Founder and Director. Launched 2009.
  • Living Proof—Co-Founder and Director. Launched 2004 as Andora. Changed its name 2008. Actress Jennifer Aniston joins as co-owner and haircare spokesperson 2012.
  • Selecta Biosciences—Founder, Director, and Co-Chair of Scientific Advisory Board. Launched 2008.
  • Seventh Sense Biosystems—Co-Founder, Director, and Member of Scientific Advisory Board. Launched 2008.
  • TARIS Biomedical—Co-Founder, Director, and Member, Scientific Advisory Board. Launched 2008.
  • BIND Biosciences—Co-Founder, Director, and Chairman of Scientific Advisory Board. Launched 2007.
  • Cerulean—Co-Founder and Member, Scientific Advisory Board. Launched 2007 as Tempo Pharmaceuticals. Name changed 2008.
  • T2 Biosystems—Co-Founder. Launched 2006.
  • Arsenal Vascular—Co-Founder and Director. Launched 2005 as Arsenal Medical. Renamed 2011.
  • InVivo Therapeutics—Co-Founder and Member of Scientific Advisory Board. Launched 2006.
  • Pervasis Therapeutics—Co-Founder. Launched 2004. Acquired 2012 by Shire.
  • Pulmatrix—Co-Founder and Member, Scientific Advisory Board. Launched 2003.
  • Momenta Pharmaceuticals—Co-Founder. Launched 2001.
  • PureTech—Co-Founder and senior partner. Science tech development and commercialization company founded 2001 as PureTech Ventures, an institutional founder of companies in breakthrough technologies.
  • Combinent BioMedical Systems—Co-Founder. Launched 2000.
  • MicroCHIPS—Co-Founder and Director. Launched 1999.
  • TransForm Pharmaceuticals—Co-Founder. Launched 1999. Acquired 2005 by Johnson & Johnson.
  • Advanced Inhalation Research (AIR)—Co-Founder. Launched 1997. Acquired 1999 by Alkermes.
  • Sontra Medical—Co-Founder and scientific consultant. Launched 1996. Merged 2007 with Echo Therapeutics.
  • Acusphere—Co-Founder. Launched 1993.
  • At present: David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT, one of 14 to receive the institute’s highest faculty honor; CHS Pharma, Director and scientific advisor.
  • Degrees: Cornell University, B.S. in chemical engineering, 1970; MIT, Sc.D. in chemical engineering, 1974.

James W. Larrick, M.D., Ph.D

  • Larix Bioscience—Co-Founder and president. Launched 2012.
  • Arana Therapeutics—Co-Founder. Formed 2007 via merger of Peptech and EvoGenix.  Acquired 2009 by Cephalon, which was later acquired by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.
  • StormBio – Co-Founder; Chief Scientific Officer. Launched 2006.
  • Verdezyne – Co-Founder; Member of Scientific Advisory Board. Launched 2005 as CODA Genomics to use computational technology to design genes. Repositioned 2008 into a biofuel and biochemical concern.
  • Galaxy Biotech – Co-Founder. Launched 2002.
  • Neuromolecular Pharmaceuticals—Co-Founder. Launched 2002.
  • Absalus—Co-Founder. Launched 2001. Acquired 2005 by EvoGenix, which was later acquired 2007 by Peptech, resulting in launch of Arana Therapeutics.
  • TransTarget – Co-Founder. Incorporated 2004.
  • KaloBios Pharmaceuticals—Co-Founder. Launched 2001.
  • Adamas Pharmaceuticals—Co-Founder. Launched 2000.
  • NuGEN Technologies—Co-Founder. Launched 2000.
  • InterMune—Co-Founder.  Launched 1998.
  • Planet Biotechnology—Co-Founder; VP and CTO. Launched 1998.
  • Target Quest—Co-Founder. Launched 1997. Acquired 1999 by Dyax.
  • PanGenetics—Co-Founder, Member, Scientific Advisory Board. Launched 1995. Acquired 1998 by Tanox, which was later acquired by Genentech, which in turn was later acquired by Roche.
  • Panorama Research—Founder and Managing Scientific Director; Launched 1991 as biopharma incubator.
  • Panorama Institute of Molecular Medicine—Founder and President. Launched 1991 as nonprofit research institute; formerly Palo Alto Institute of Molecular Medicine.
  • Cetus Immune Research Labs—Founding scientist, 1982; Director of Research, 1986. Launched 1982. Acquired by Chiron, which was later acquired by Novartis.
  • Humanyx – Co-Founder. Year of launch unavailable.
  • At present: Venture Partner, CMEA Capital, 2010-present; Managing Director and Chief Medical Officer, Velocity Pharmaceutical Development.
  • Degrees: Colorado College, B.S. in chemistry; Duke University School of Medicine, M.D., and Ph.D., membrane chemistry, Duke University Medical School. Years unavailable.

William S. (Bill) Marshall, Ph.D.

  • miRragen Therapeutics—Co-Founder; President, CEO, and Director. Launched 2007.
  • Dharmacon—Scientific Co-Founder; EVP for Research and Operations and General Manager. Company founded 1995. Acquired 2004 by Fisher Scientific International, now Thermo Fisher Scientific.
  • Degrees: University of Wisconsin-Madison, B.S. in Biochemistry; University of Colorado at Boulder, Ph.D. in Chemistry in the laboratory of Marvin H. Caruthers, Ph.D. (See above). Years unavailable.

Eric N. Olson, Ph.D.

  • LoneStar Heart—Co-Founder. Launched 2010.
  • miRagen Therapeutics—Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Advisor. Launched 2007.
  • Myogen—Co-Founder, Scientific Advisor. Launched 1996. Acquired 2006 by Gilead Pharmaceuticals.
  • At present: The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Department of Molecular Biology—Founder, 1995; Professor and Chairman; Holder of the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Science, the Annie and Willie Nelson Professorship in Stem Cell Research, and the Pogue Distinguished Chair in Research on Cardiac Birth Defects; Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Scientific Review Board.
  • Degrees: Wake Forest University, B.A. in Chemistry and Biology; Ph.D. in Biochemistry; honorary doctorate. Washington University School of Medicine, postdoctoral training. Years unavailable.

Harry D. Pedersen, MBA

  • NewGen Therapeutics—Founder, President, and CEO. Launched 2011.
  • LEAD Therapeutics—Co-Founder; VP, business development, 2009-2010. Launched 2007. Acquired 2010 by BioMarin Pharmaceutical.
  • ChemGenex Pharmaceuticals—Co-Founder; EVP, corporate development, 2001-2006. Launched 1999 as ChemGenex Therapeutics with Dennis M. Brown (See above). Merged 2004 with AGT Biosciences to become ChemGenex Pharmaceuticals.
  • Degrees: Information unavailable

Linda Rhodes, V.M.D., Ph.D

  • Aratana Therapeutics—Founding CEO, 2011-2012; currently CSO and Director. Launched 2010.
  • AlcheraBio—Co-Founder; Managing Member, 2001-2008. Acquired 2008 by Argenta.
  • Degrees: Sarah Lawrence College, B.A.; University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, V.M.D.; Cornell University, Ph.D. in physiology. Years unavailable.

David Warshawsky, Ph.D.

  • LifeMap Sciences—Co-Founder; President and CEO. Launched 2011 by BioTime in collaboration with Xennex.
  • Avraham Pharmaceuticals—Co-Founder; CEO, 2010-2011. Launched 2010.
  • Varinel—Co-Founder; Director, 2003-2012. Launched 2003.
  • XenneX—Founder and Director. Launched 2003. Acquired by BioTime and its subsidiary LifeMap Sciences, 2012.
  • Degrees: Tel Aviv University, B.Sc. in Biology, 1991; University of Illinois at Chicago, Ph.D. in Molecular Biology, 1995

Howard J. Weisman

  • EKR Therapeutics—Founder; Chairman, and CEO, 2005-2010. Launched 2005. Acquired 2012 by Cornerstone Therapeutics, which in turn was acquired March 13 by Chiesi Farmaceutici and is now known as Chiesi USA.
  • ESP Pharma—Co-Founder; President, COO, and Director, 2001-2005. Launched 2001. Acquired 2005 by PDL Biopharma.
  • At present: SeventhSense Biosystems, CEO and President, 2012-present; Promedior, Director, 2013-present.
  • Degrees: Rutgers University, BA in chemistry, year unavailable

Kleanthis G. Xanthopoulos, Ph.D.

  • Regulus Therapeutics—Co-Founder, President, CEO, and Director. Launched 2007.
  • Sente—Founder/Director. Launched 2007.
  • Anadys Pharmaceuticals—Co-Founder; President and CEO, 2000-2006; Director, 2000-2011. Launched 2000. Acquired 2011 by Roche.
  • At present: Apricus Biosciences, Chairman, 2013-present; Director, 2011-2013.
  • Degrees: Aristotle University, B.Sc. in biology; University of Stockholm, M.Sc. in microbiology, and Ph.D. in molecular biology. Years unavailable.

Alejandro Zaffaroni, Ph.D. (1923-2014)

  • Alexza Pharmaceuticals—Founder. Launched 2000.
  • Maxygen—Founder; CEO. Launched 1997. Dissolved 2013.
  • SurroMed—Co-Founder and Director, 2001-2005. Launched 1997. Acquired 2005 by PPD.
  • Technogen Associates—Founder. Launched 1997 with investment focus on human genetics and life sciences startups.
  • Symyx Technologies—Founder and CEO. Launched 1994. Laboratory robotics systems spun out as Freeslate, 2010. Surviving software business merged with Accelrys, 2010.
  • Affymetrix—Founder; Director Emeritus; Director, 1991-1997. Launched 1991.
  • Affymax—Co-Founder. Launched 1988. Acquired 1995 by Glaxo-Wellcome, now GlaxoSmithKline.
  • DNAX—Founder. Launched 1980. Acquired 1982 by Schering-Plough, which operated DNAX as subsidiary until 2005, when company was integrated with another subsidiary into Schering-Plough, now Merck & Co.
  • ALZA—Founder; Chairman and CEO, 1968-1987; Co-Chairman, 1987-1997. Launched 1968. Acquired 2001 by Johnson & Johnson.
  • Zaffaroni Foundation—Founder. Established 1963 for research in education, nutrition, and genetics in the development of depression and addictive disorders.
  • Degrees: University of Montevideo, B.Sc., 1941; Ph.D. in Biochemistry from University of Rochester, 1949.

1. See Bonnstetter, R. J., Bonnstetter, B. J., & Preston, D. (2010). Do you have what it takes to be a serial entrepreneur? Target Training International, Ltd. Available via The Bonn Center at: 

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